I’m writing this from the train, on the way to Leeds and then Bradford. Hard to believe all the things that have happened over the last few days!

Arrived on Sunday, it was dreary and foggy, and I wrote about how the cold seeped into my bones!

Traveler beware. The temperature might claim it’s 7 degree Celsius but it’s not like 7 degrees in Toronto!

Went to a posh store called John Lewis and bought a proper jacket with a hidden hood, very light, very expensive. It was 175 pounds (multiply that by an exchange rate of 1.6 dollars per pound and you’ll get the idea.  Haven’t done the math because I really don’t want to know!)

Monday I visited the Islamic school and they were, as expected, absolutely lovely!

And then Monday evening I went to meet Ayesha Gamiet for that traditional English tea at a place called the Richoux, in Picadilly.

Oh what an experience!

Raisin scones dripping with butter and jam that melt in your mouth! Dark rich fruitcake chock full of raisins, currants and marachino cherries! And the most delectable cakes, all washed down with chamomile tea!

And the conversation! Ayesha is this sweet young thing, reminded me so much of my daughters, who’s amazingly accomplished for her tender years. She’s finished her master’s in Visual Islamic and traditional Arts from the Prince’s school of traditional arts (by the way the ‘prince’ is none other than Prince Charles. He’s the patron of this school, in fact Ayesha’s going to be meeting with him today I think–there’s some kind of fancy event for the Turkish president who’s visiting on a state visit).

She has traveled to Turkey to apprentice for the ancient art under a master.

Turns out they hand down the secrets from generation to generation kind of like a pedigree.

She works at the Prince’s school teaching some of the stuff she’s learned.  I had asked her to bring her portfolio and I got to ‘ooh’ and ah’ ov er her delightful pictures. Her style reminds me of Demi, intricate and beautiful.

So much talent! That’s what I’m finding within the Muslim community over here!

The economic upheaval seems to have hit the U.K. particularly hard because the schools seem to be strapped! The Islamic schools even more so!

Yesterday I took a ride on the hop on hop off sightseeing bus service.  Got my first glimpse of London Bridge and the Tower of London. It was wonderful but turned out not to be such  a good idea to do that the day of the award. A lot of walking which left me tired, and then by the time I went to the award ceremony at the Globe I was quite exhausted.

And then it turned into the kind of cocktail party event (minus the cocktails) where you stand around socializing, nibbling tasties and drinking  fizzy lemonade and sparkling mineral water.

One of the guy’s doing a presentation at the beginning remarked about how remarkably clear-headed he was because of the lack of alcohol, and he said something like he could get used to that! LOL

Loverly but ooh my aching feet!

I didn’t win the Muslim Writer’s Award. An amazing talent named Na’ima bint Robert won.  First time she saw me she grabbed hold of me and hugged me hard!

I’d only ever corresponded with her by email, and even online she’s a delight! But in person she’s ever so much more! By the way, she wears niqab, just like my daughters.

She’s so remarkably talented Masha Allah! Has been singularly responsible for creating this fabulous magazine for women called Sisters! In terms of quality it’s right up there with Vogue for style and glamour and it’s completely Islamic!

Now here she’s gone and expanded her expertise into the children’s fiction genre. She was kind enough to give me a copy of her book and I can’t wait to start reading it!

Didn’t get back to the hotel till 10 pm, and luckily I had already mostly packed.

Got up early this morning and I’m on the train.

It’s surprising how quickly we left London behind. The sun has burned off the early morning mist and out my first class window I see fields of pasture and woods all brown leaves that haven’t fallen.

The folks in Bradford were kind enough to spring for first class, so I’m basking in luxury!

They even served breakfast.

I had ‘bloomer’ bread and when I asked the nice gentleman server what that was, he made a hand gesture saying it was ‘big’, like bread that had ‘bloomed’. Of course I had to try it.

It’s a bit on the roundish side, and it tastes like normal bread.

I also had something called bubble and squeak, it’s a kind of mashed potato mixed with bits of carrot and cabbage. It came in a little dome that was crisp on top and tender in the middle. Yum!

It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses though.

Yesterday on the sightseeing bus I met up with a rude man from Kuwait.

His wife was wearing niqab. I saw them take a seat at the front of the bus and I thought I’d join them and chat them up a bit.

The lady seemed friendly enough. She replied to my salams and smiled (I could tell by her eyes). But the man was very curt when I asked them where they wer from. “Kuwait.” He answered in a blunt way that didn’t allow for follow up discussion.

A relative of mine had worked in Kuwait. He had nothing kind to say about Kuwaitis, and now I understand why.

He parked himself on the outer side of the seats, shielding his wife from me it seemed. I tried not to get annoyed. I thought maybe they’re just scared being in a foreign country.

But honestly, I thought, no wonder westerners look at Muslims, and especially Muslim men, as a surly bunch!

No manners!

Contrast that with the warm and friendly manners of the British couples I met on that same sightseeing bus! Two middle-aged couples, one from the middle of England, one from Whales, were absolutely charming!

Well, better sign off now. I’m looking forward to Bradford and Coventry!

What an adventure!

(By the way, apparently Kings Cross Station, where I alighted on this train, is the train station that J.K. Rowling based Hogwarts train station on.)